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The federal government began a broad-scale effort to improve the lot of America's migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the 1960's. This effort resulted in large part from the landmark documentary, Harvest of Shame, produced by Edward R. Murrow and telecast on CBS television at Thanksgiving in 1960. Awareness of the poverty and hardships endured by families who migrated to harvest fruits and vegetables to feed hungry Americans led to a call for action at the highest level. The first major government program addressed health concerns, and other programs were created to focus on housing, working conditions, and training for other employment. Then came education.

The passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965 committed the federal government to help schools, especially in providing extra help to children who were disadvantaged by poverty and its effects. In the fall of 1966, Congress amended the ESEA to create the Migrant Education Program to address the special educational needs of mobile farmworker children.The first programs for migrant children were implemented in the fall of 1967 with a total federal allocation of $9 million.

Today, the Migrant Education Program serves approximately 375,000 children in 46 states. The Federal commitment was $374,751,000 for the 2016 federal fiscal year which began October 1, 2015 and ended September 30, 2016. With those funds, states and local schools provide a broad range of instructional and support services to supplement regular classroom instruction and help overcome barriers arising from mobility and educational disruption. Most states offer special programs in the summer. Many states make special efforts to reach pre-school children and older out-of-school youth who have not graduated.

The Title I, Part C Migrant Education Program (as it is now called) faces unique challenges in locating and enrolling children who move, in exchanging academic and health information, and in facilitating the transfer of high school credits. Many innovative approaches have been developed, including pioneer applications of technology, such as an internal database begun in 1971 and nationwide distance learning programs in the early nineties.  The program now offers online courses, mobile computer labs, and other creative solutions.

The full text of the federal education statute, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which became law in January 2002, can be viewed at  


A new law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015. It has not yet taken effect for the Title I, Part C Migrant Education Program.

2021 National Migrant Education Conference

May 3 - May 6, 2020


For more information visit:



ELL– An “English Language Learner” is a native speaker of another language in the process of learning English -- also referred to as “Limited English Proficient” or “LEP.”

ESOL – “English for speakers of other languages” is the currently accepted term for programs teaching language skills to students from non-English speaking backgrounds. This term replaces the term “English as a Second Language” or “ESL.”

LEP – “Limited English Proficient” is a term used by the federal government and by many state and local schools districts to identify and categorize students whose English is insufficient to succeed in English–only classrooms.

FEP – “Fluent” or “Fully English Proficient” is the term used to identify students who are from backgrounds where English is not the primary language spoken but have attained an English proficiency level which enables them to succeed in an English-only classroom.

TESOL – “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages” refers, in general, to the discipline of teaching English to non-native speakers but also to the international professional organization of educators involved with teaching English as an additional language.

Title III -- The portion of the No Child Left Behind Act authorizing appropriations and establishing standards for English language acquisition programs in schools. The focus of the title is on assisting school districts in teaching English to Limited English Proficient students and in helping these students meet the standards required of all other students.

OELA – The “Office of English Language Acquisition”, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students is an office of the U.S. Department of Education which administers the Title III ESL programs.

BICS – “Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills” are often referred to as "playground English" or "survival English.” BICS are the basic language ability required for face-to-face communication and usually acquired first by ELL students. However, BICS are not sufficient to meet the cognitive and linguistic demands of an academic classroom.

CALP – “Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency” is the linguistic ability necessary for more formal language usage and is typically found in academic texts and settings. This proficiency generally develops with schooling and takes ELL students longer to develop than BICS.

L1 – A student's first or primary language, generally the language spoken at home.

L2 – A secondary or additional language a student learns or is in the process of learning after a first language has already been acquired.

LMS – “Language Minority Students” are students living in countries where their first or primary language is not the dominant language. These students generally have no or limited proficiency in the dominant language.

Language Majority Students -- Students whose first language is that of the majority population.




For a comprehensive glossary of key terminology relevant to educational programs, please visit the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights website at:

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